Twenty years ago there was a lively global debate about whether or not the planet’s climate was
changing and the impact of human activity on those atmospheric changes. It is less than a year ago
that some politicians were dismissing climate change as a ‘hoax’, and climate sceptics were
widespread. However, the latest report from the UN. Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change
[IPCC], published in August 2021 is quite clear about its fundamental messages.
The report states:
Observed increases in well-mixed greenhouse gas (GHG) concentrations since around 1750 are
unequivocally caused by human activities. Since 2011 (measurements reported in AR5),
concentrations have continued to increase in the atmosphere, reaching annual averages of 410
ppm for carbon dioxide (CO2), 1866 ppb for methane (CH4), and 332 ppb for nitrous oxide (N2O) in
2019. Land and ocean have taken up a near-constant proportion (globally about 56% per year) of
CO2 emissions from human activities over the past six decades, with regional differences.”
Furthermore the report is clear that drastic action throughout the world will be needed to halt the
destructive effects of climate change.
The report states:
“Global surface temperature will continue to increase until at least the mid-century under all
emissions scenarios considered. Global warming of 1.5°C and 2°C will be exceeded during the 21st
century unless deep reductions in CO2 and other greenhouse gas emissions occur in the coming
There is a mountain of information available to support these assertions, and a good place to
browse is https://www.ipcc.ch
The issue for rotarians is what action should we take in the face of looming climatic disaster. This
is a particularly pertinent question for RGBI rotarians in 2021, because later this year UK will be
the host nation for COP26. Can RGBI rotarians take the lead and show what can be done to tackle
climate change? Now there is a challenge. . . !
What many websites concerned with climate change quickly establish is the need for everyone to
reduce their carbon footprint. The typical per capita carbon footprint in the UK is 12-14 tons, and
studies show this figure must be greatly reduced if the UK is to achieve its commitments to the
Paris Agreement. In December 2020 the UK government announced that the country aimed to
achieve a 68% reduction of the 1990 level of greenhouse gas emissions by 2030 as its nationally
determined contribution [NDC] to combat global climate change. Relevant research studies
suggest this will require drastic lifestyle changes for this target to be achieved. The 1.5 Degree
Lifestyles report in the White Papers section of www.climateaction.or/resources suggests that:
reduced consumption of meat & dairy products,
reduced use of fossil fuel energy and replacement with renewable energy sources,
reduced private car usage,
reduced air travel
are the best ways to achieve those lifestyle changes.
The above websites can sound daunting to those unaccustomed to rapid change, especially when
the basic messages are wrapped in volumes of technical language.
Click on WHAT CAN I DO below for some simple ideas of what you can do.
When starting to try and reduce one’s carbon footprint it is easy to become discouraged. The
question arises, “what difference can an individual make?”.
Click on WHAT DIFFERENCE CAN AN INDIVIDUAL MAKE below to find a brief answer to this question.
CLUB & DISTRICT ACTION
For rotarians to make a real difference to this global problem, it is necessary for Rotary clubs,
districts and Rotary International to work together on climate mitigation projects. Click here for an
example of a Rotary club project where the prime purpose is to reduce the carbon footprint of its
members. Click here for an example of a district climate mitigation project. For Rotary to have a
significant impact on climate change action, starting at COP26 but particularly continuing
afterwards, many more district-level climate change mitigation programmes are needed.
So far we have been considering climate change mitigation in terms of reduction of greenhouse gas
emissions, or carbon footprint. Such actions are needed in order to halt the continuous increase of
carbon and other greenhouse gases. However, such action does not reduce the carbon already in the
atmosphere. With the current state of technology and limited international cooperation, the best
way to remove carbon from the atmosphere is by photosynthesis. Hence there is now great interest
in tree-planting for the purpose of carbon capture. The Rotary Club of Harrogate have long been
active with this type of tree-planting. Click here to view their most recent report.
The greatest potential for carbon capture planting is within the various tropical tree-planting &
forest restoration work. Click here for details of these programmes, where it is anticipated that
more than 10,000 trees will be planted specifically for carbon capture. Precise details if where such
trees are located will not, however, be available until after the covid crisis has abated in East Africa.